Duke Preview and Prediction

This is a critical game for the 2019 Hokies. This team can’t afford to go 0-2 in the ACC. And if they lose this game, it’s hard to find 5 more wins on the schedule for the Hokies to go bowling. They will need 7 wins to go bowling this year since they play 2 FCS teams.

What scares me most about this Duke offense is Quentin Harris’ ability to scramble. Although the Hokies dealt with a mobile QB against Furman, this will be a big step up in competition. He reminds me of Anthony Brown who had a very good game against the Hokies in Week 1. This offense doesn’t have a lot of weapons. As long as the Hokies don’t struggle with Duke’s option and misdirection plays, they should be able to keep the Duke offense in check.

The Duke defense is solid. This group should be able to shut down the Hokies’ run game without too much trouble. If the Hokies want to have success, it will have to be through the air. You can count on Duke stopping the run with their front four and trying to force Ryan Willis into mistakes by mixing up coverages. Ryan Willis will need to make good decisions, limit turnovers and put the ball in his playmaker’s hands. If he can do that, the Hokies have a good chance to win this game.

The Hokies young offensive line will struggle against Duke’s experience defensive line. This is a game where the offensive line will have to give Ryan Willis enough time to throw. And he will have to make good decisions against an experienced Duke secondary. It will be difficult for the Hokies to find a running game against this Duke defense. The Hokies will need score close to 30 to win this game — which will be tough against this Blue Devils defense. The best hope for the Hokies is to keep this game low scoring and make enough plays in the passing game to pull this one out.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Duke 24

Furman Preview and Prediction

The Hokies need to take care of the football. They are -6 in turnover margin two games into the season. The scoreline against ODU could have looked much better without the turnovers. The offense left points on the field with two turnovers in the 2nd half. Without those turnovers, the Hokies could have put up 10 or 14 more points. Then the scoreline looks a lot better. More like what most fans would’ve expected. But a win is a win. Plenty of programs would have loved to have avoided the upset bug on Saturday.
 
Next up is Furman. Furman is 1-1 after nearly upsetting Georgia State on Saturday. Georgia State is the team that upset Tennessee in week 1. This team can put up a ton of points and are top 25 in the FCS. This is not a team you can sleep on. This team upset  UCF in 2015. This team features a balanced attack. Sometimes they run a flexbone (ala Georgia Tech under Paul Johnson) and sometimes they run out of spread formations. For a Virginia Tech team that struggles with finishing tackles and filling gaps, this type of offense that could give them trouble. Far more than you’d expect from an FCS team. And likely the toughest FCS challenge they’ve had since JMU in 2010 or App State in 2011.
 
Furman has a dynamic quarterback in Darren Grainger. He runs Furman’s multiple offense well and is a threat on the ground and through the air. Furman’s offense looks like a tough matchup for Virginia Tech’s defense. Furman relies on misdirection and option concepts to get players of out position. I’m not surprised they beatdown Charleston Southern and almost beat Georgia State. This offense has put up some gaudy numbers in the first two weeks of the season. The Hokies defense needs to show up for this one. This offense can sustain long drives and score even against good defenses.
 
Defensively, the Paladins do not look as strong. They are tough to figure out. Georgia State put up 38 against Tennessee and 48 against Furman. Is Furman’s defense only slightly worse than Tennessee’s? This is a defense that you can put up numbers against, particularly in the passing game. I’m not hopeful for the running game considering Tech’s poor performance against ODU. If they couldn’t get the run game going against ODU, I’m not sure they will against Furman. Or anybody else for that matter.
 
This is as concerned going into an FCS game as I can remember being. I do not believe the Hokies will lose but I do not think they will cover a 22-point spread (or 21 or 20). I expect a similar performance to the ODU game. A win likely but far from inspiring. And that’s if the Hokies can put up big numbers through the air and outpace Furman offensively. If the Hokies have any stumbles on offense or turn the ball over, look out. This is a Furman team can that can eat up clock and put up some points against the Hokies defense. Furman is better than ODU. And we saw how that ODU game went. If the Hokies offense and defense can perform better than last week, they can put this game away early. If not, this one could go into the 4th quarter. Don’t sleep on this FCS team.
 
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Furman 24

Old Dominion Preview and Prediction

You can’t judge a team based on an early season game. In 2016, the Hokies turned the ball over five times and lost to Tennessee at the Battle at Bristol. That team went on to win the Coastal division and took Clemson to the last possession in the ACC Championship Game. Last season, the Hokies beat Florida State on the road 24-3 then went on to have their first losing season in 26 years. In short, don’t judge a season based on an early season game. Some teams get better and some teams don’t end up looking as good as they first looked. You have to let the season play out.

The Hokies have two more games to tune up before they play their next conference game against Duke. They need to use these games as an opportunity to get healthy and fix the issues we saw against Boston College. Old Dominion is the type of team the Hokies need to be able to get a comfortable victory against. The Hokies need to prove that last year’s massive upset was no more than a fluke.

The Old Dominion offense features some familiar faces. Former Virginia Tech OC Bryan Stinespring is ODU’s new tight ends coach. And former VT players Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham are now starters for Old Dominion. Not to mention they will also be team captains for this game. If that’s not sending a message to the Hokies, I’m not sure what is.

Last year’s hero, Blake LaRussa, left football to pursue seminary school this past offseason. Jeremy Cox, the running back who ran for 130 yards against the Hokies last year is also gone. Replacing them is JUCO QB Stone Smartt and former VT recruiting target RB LaLa Davis. The player to watch on the ODU offense is former Hokie Eric Kumah. He led ODU in receiving yards last week against Norfolk State.

The ODU defense struggled against the run last year. This is a game where the Hokies run game should look to get going. Look for Keshawn King to have a big game. This defense brings back five starters from last year’s squad. This defense finished dead last in total defense in Conference USA in 2018. The Hokies need to show off some of their offensive talent and put up a lot of points. If Norfolk State can put 21 points against ODU, Virginia Tech should be able to put up a lot more.

Last year, the game at Old Dominion felt like a lot of problems revealing themselves at the same time. Up until that point, the Hokies were feeling good. That game revealed a lot of problems that the Hokies spent the rest of the year trying to work out. This time the motivation will be there to take care of business against the Monarchs. This is a game the Hokies should put away early.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Old Dominion 14